PUTTING ON A HAPPY FACE: Talk about making the best of a sticky situation.
This story first appeared in the October 25, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On Tuesday, The New York Times and The Washington Post announced what turned out to be a less-than-amicable deal for the Times to buy the Post’s 50 percent stake in The International Herald Tribune, ending a 35-year partnership. On Wednesday morning, just as the story that the Post had been muscled to sell was breaking in nearly every major newspaper, its chairman and chief executive Donald Graham flew to New York to appear as the honorary speaker at Columbia University’s “Knight Bagehot” dinner, an annual fund-raiser for the school’s fellowship program for financial reporters. His introductory speaker? None other than Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the very same man who’d purportedly told him (or had his lawyers tell him) that if Graham didn’t sell, the Times would crush the Post by launching its own international edition.
At the cocktail party before the dinner, held in a second-floor conference room of the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, a band played “It Had To Be You” as Sulzberger and Graham posed for photographers and declined to comment on the state of their relationship.
“I’m not going to talk to you about this,” Sulzberger said.
“It’s fine that he’s introducing me,” Graham said. “I’ve said everything I have to say about The International Herald Tribune.”
“Don is good at buttoning up his lip,” said one Post source by phone from Washington. “But he’s definitely pissed.”
“It was the two most competitive newspapers in America smoking the peace pipe on an international edition, and the pipe got shattered by The New York Times,” said another, who described the sale as “a departure from the tradition of gentlemanly, old-world competition.”
Luckily, Graham and Sulzberger did finally address the current state of their relationship when they got to the podium, with Sulzberger even going so far as to say that a) he wasn’t all that dissimilar from the day’s honoree and, b) in the end, the whole fiasco was just a $70 million version of sibling rivalry.
“We are brothers under the skin, and though we don’t always agree about things, as you may recently have read, we always understand each other,” Sulzberger said, recounting how the two rivals managed to work together a few years ago when publishing the Unibomber’s manifesto. “And by the way, we were just kidding about that IHT stuff!”
“Well, thank you Arthur,” said Graham as he took to the podium. “That was an exceptionally kind introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, I think it is clear that Arthur Sulzberger Jr. will be regarded as the greatest publisher in New York Times history.”
Meanwhile, many questions remain among staffers at The International Herald Tribune in Paris. Chief among them is what will become of David Ignatius, the paper’s executive editor, who came from the Post and whose colleagues there are speculating on a return to Washington after the transfer goes into effect.
Reached by phone, Ignatius said IHT coverage will “continue as before,” as he has not received any instructions to make changes. “We are looking forward to hearing from The New York Times what its plans are for the paper,” he said. Ignatius added that he would “see the paper through the transition to its new owners,” but did not specify as to what would happen afterwards.
There are some 60 journalists at the IHT, most of them copy editors.
Fashion editor Suzy Menkes could not immediately be reached for comment, but Ignatius sang her praises.
“Suzy is the jewel of our newspaper and someone we feel is a dominant voice in the field,” he said. “She tells the truth about what she sees. That kind of fashion coverage can only exist in an international newspaper. We’d love to see that journalism continue.”
— Jacob Bernstein with Miles Socha
BACK TO BEAUTY: Elaine Farley, fashion and beauty director of Cosmopolitan, is jumping ship. She’s headed back to Condé Nast where she’s been named beauty director of Self, succeeding Anne Breza, who left the magazine.
“For me, I really want to focus on beauty full-time,” Farley said.
Before joining Cosmo four years ago, Farley was the swimsuit editor of Sports Illustrated, before which she spent four years as fashion editor at Glamour.
Farley’s successor at Cosmo hasn’t been named yet.
TOWNSEND LEAVES NEW YORK, LITERALLY: Catherine Townsend is leaving New York magazine, where she was a staff writer for the Intelligencer column. She plans to move to London, where she’ll freelance. Townsend had been at New York for a year and a half. Her replacement hasn’t been named yet.